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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ramglings of a girl with no sleep, just tryna record a good week down :)

It's funny how just one week can turn your life around. I won't go into details, but let's just say it's been a tough couple of weeks. I can truly say though that evry earnest prayer has been answered this week, in ways I would have never expected. I guess it was a week of tender mercies :)

I've got a few decisions I"m trying to make in life, which has caused a whole world of confusion. I am grateful for wise & worthy priesthood holders than can deliver blessings of comfort & direction.

I spent the end of my week off with an impromptu trip down to Tuscon to see one of my oldest & dearest friends, Rachael (Kuttler) Nielsen. It's funny cause she called and warned she wouldn't be wearing make-up when I got there...which honestly made me laugh! Our time together has consisted of childhood, days of braces, glasses, early-morning seminary, those awkward-teenage years, hideous halloween costumes (who's pictures we really should burn by the way), 6 years of Girls' Camp, a High Adventure marathon 3 day road trip to west Texas...where we learned how to pee on bushes...*shudder!* AND illegally waded across the Rio Grande into Mexico, one crazy service project in Houston swampland that turned into a mud bath, and countless numbers of sleepovers (complete with green facial masks). I realized in all our time together, we've spent about 90% of our friendship Al Natural!

It was such a good visit though. Rachael is Super Woman! She doesn't know it, but she just has things together, and I love the opportunities I have to spend with her. This trip was especially special for me because of the talk we had last night. Turns out we've both been struggling with the same feelings--even in our 2 completely different lifestyles (her a Homemaker with 3 kids under the age of 4, me workin' it up & trying to navigate the single's scene). I think it was a relief for the both of us to find we weren't the only one's who struggle, and that we could relate to each other. I honestly left that 6 hour marathon conversation so edified, I'm still getting warm fuzzies about it! We enjoyed it so much, we both only got 2 hours of sleep before the kids were up and pancakes were being served (by Super Woman :) Love that girl.

One of the best parts of the trip: I got to spoil her kids wrotten! Since I don't have nieces/nephews, I have to rain gifts upon the children of friends/former roommates/comps. It's so fun :) With this particular trip, there were a few kid-friendly items I was trying to get rid of. It's so fun to me to see kids like a gift! Below are the pictures of Rachael's super-cute little brude :) Hayley, Austin & Will (notice neither Rachael nor I are in any pictures...we'd reverted back to the no makeup/no sleep look of our youth, & made the good call to not document the occassion with any evidence!)

I can't believe how much they look like Rachael!

Showin' off her new clothes. She totally surprised me by grabbing the clothes out of her gift bag firt, leaving the barbie doll behind so that she could run and try 'em on!

Austin cracks me up, he's quiet...but with a slightly ornery sense of humor, and just so dang cute!

Will seriously had this grin on his face almost every moment hew as awake. Such a cute, laid-back kid :)
This kiddo's grandpa was my stake President...and he looks just like him! I think so anyway :)

I wanted to get back to Phoenix in time for a fireside from Elder Scott, so I left pretty early (which is good...cause the night before my 2 hour trip turned into 4 1/2 when I missed the exit & ended up half way to Mexico before I realized it). With a bit of extra time on my hands, I stopped by what might just be my favorite restaraunt: Cracker Barrell. Just something that feels like home about that place (probably the kajillion stops there in childhood during road trips). I always thought it'd be weird to eat in a restaraunt by myself, but it was actually pretty nice. I got quick service, didn't offend anybody by texting at the table, and honestly just enjoyed the thinking/relaxing time in a place that feels so familiar to me. Anyway, this is probably not an exciting enough topic to legally blog about....but there is something exhilerating to me STILL to be on a roadtrip by myself & stop when I want to stop, exactly where I want to stop. Some people go sky-diving for that thrilling feeling of freedom...but I just go to Cracker Barrel ;)

Anyway, it was perfect timing, I made it home in time for a quick shower & seat at Elder Richard G. Scott's fireside. I love him. Mainly because he loves us, and he seems to have made it his personal mission to help us feel the love of Christ. He started the "talk" by telling us to not write down what we heard, but what we felt. I came away from the night with 2 solid pages worth of notes, inspiration, new ideas, and insight...all from the feelings that came. He testified of the exact things I needed to be strengthened in, about things I've prayed about lately. My heart was full, just realizing how aware my Heavenly Father is aware of what's going on in my life. This week he sent me counsel, comfort, friendship, Rachael, and even one of his Apostles.

The number one lesson that I was reminded of this week: if you reach out to others, spreading service and joy, you'll find happiness. But I think even more than that...you'll find peace :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Awesomeness that is my life!

I just got home from one of the most enjoyable works days I have ever had! My 15 minute "reflection time" drive home through the beautiful foothills of Ahwatukee--in this gorgeous 85 degree about-to-rain weather I might add!--has left me full of gratitude and love for what has become my life! I am amazingly lucky!

The kids I work with are some of the most amazing kids in the world. Granted, I may be a little biased about this topic, but I truly am in awe with the caliber of the people I work with! Not one of them shares my religious views, but I see in each of them the mark of a chosen, strong-willed, independant generation. It has intrigued me that even the young man who has been taught to be an atheist, is one of the kindest, most obedient, caring, giving members of the class, and thus a natural leader to others. It has really taught me that despite what we are taught by parents here, we come with the God-like qualities developed in pre-earth life. I want to be more like so many of them!

Now, to talk about how awesome my job is & convince you all to go be teachers ;) Today was Luau day!! While the 6th graders went out to lunch with my lead teacher, I took over the classroom for the 15 others. They cleaned. I mean--scrubbed the place down...with only minimal complaint :) We decorated t-shirts, had a school choir concert, signed year books, and had a LUAU!! For 3 hours, the whole school ran around to different booths--all free!--winning really cool prizes, getting snow cones, and sliding down inflatable slip-and-slides. It was like Disneyland was brought to Keystone! :)

My favorite part by far was when the fire truck pulled up. It took them half an hour to hook the hose up, but the kids didn't care. You would have thought firemen would be shooting ice cream at them, they way they screamed a carried on!! It was HILARIOUS to see what looked like a giant rain storm open up on 200 kids~! After drying off, I let 10 of them stay with me to play a few rounds of Mafia.....ha! Mafia with 4th graders...it went something like this:

Officiator: "OKay, everyone thinks Myles is the mafia. Myles, what do you have to say in your defense?"
Myles: (pretty oblivious to what's going on and the rules of this strange game, but knowing he's now the center of attention) "It wasn't me. Because...I farted."
Nicole: (amidst the squeals of laughter, and me rolling my eyes) "Awww! I'm really going to miss people in this class!!"

What touches me the most is the bond I have developed with these kids. I look forward to seeing them everyday. I had the world's most boring weekend last week--putting me in such a bad mood. 30 minutes into my work day on Monday, my spirits were revived, thanks to these kids & my co-teacher. It's just an amazing experience to work with young minds, eager to learn, and eager for love/acceptance/guidance/etc.

I've come to realize the most important part of my job--and my most favorite--is listening to the kids. While walking them in a line, or just sitting next to them in the classroom, I will constantly ask, "How is your day? How was your weekend? What did you do? What's your favorite movie?". And then I just sit, and listen, nodding appropriately, and validating their feedback with appropriate responses. I have watched shy, challenged, children absolutely blossom under this practice...to the point that many of them were looking for me today--amid the fun of their water wonderland--to tell me about the snow cone they chose, the face they just got painted, the song they just sang karoke to a whole crowd, or just to see if I wanted to come along to their next event! The moments where they approach me are the ones I treasure!

Today was yearbook signing day. Everyone just signs "HAGS" and their name. The first person gave their book to me with the request to "sign". I took it aside and wrote what must appear to be a novel--giving encouragement where needed, complimenting up a storm her insecurities, recalling a few memories, and dishing out advise about building character. It was so nice to be able to sign "Love, Ms. Beth" at the end--just to express that love I feel for them! The first girl looked down at what I wrote with surprise, and not yet reading it...looked me in the eye for one of the first time's in months. I saw the desperate hope for acceptance, respect, and love in her eyes. I held her gaze, and smiled genuine love & acceptance at her. Her eyes beamed, and she left to read what I had put. That was a treasured moment. Having the kids line up so that I would write a novel in each of their books too--was also a treasured moment. I was greatly satisfied to look up and see my co-teacher lost in novelish scribbling with someone's yearbook as well :) I love working with someone I'm on the same page with :)

In conclusion: I am blessed--greatly blessed--with my job. I took a $17,000 pay cut to work this job, and it was the best professional decision I have ever made. I have more in my savings account after 5 months in a low-paying job than I did after 2 years in a lucrative job. I know I have learned to be satisfied with what I have, but mainly I give full acknowledgement of the Lord's hand in taking care of my temporal needs. I remember my Stake President back at BYU--a lucrative Lawyer--advising all of us to never let $$ be a factor in whether to take a job or not. It is SO hard not to do that. The world would teach you we NEED to put money first...but honestly, if you follow the promptings the Lord sends (and pay your tithing), he'll guide you to where you are happiest, can affect the most people, and still put food on your table :) I truly feel as if the windows of heaven have been opened, and blessings have been poured out in abundance!

The quote below is from Thomas Jefferson, imprinted into the walls of his memorial. The Montessori philosophy follows this teaching, as does the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my opinion that this eternal truth is what breeds the strength I see in these children, which inspires my soul :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Let's All Go Down to Washington DC...

Wow! What an amazing week! After months of planning, I accompanied my class of 4th-6th graders to a week long DC by foot. It was exhausting, and I loved it. Walking the streets of the city reminded me so much of the mission (as did the sore feet...and the rain :) I was presented with a lot of new challenging situations, that I was able to conquer & enjoy. I love it when people give me the chance to grow, and show the confidance in me that allows me to proove to myself what I'm capable of.

23 kids split into
4 groups. Each accompanied by
1 Chaperone.
5 Days in Washington DC, staying at
4th & E St. N.W., the address of our hostel.

My favorite moment of the whole trip was at the steps of the Supreme Court. After a long boring morning of waiting to leave, and what seemed to the kids of miles and miles of walking (ahem, it was only half a mile), we started up the steps of the Supreme Court. It was their first building to see, and aboslutly...grand. I have no idea how to describe that moment, it was breathtaking to both me AND my 6 little companions. The grandeour of it all, and the awe seen on their faces, and heard in their "oooohhhhh"s will always be cherished memory for me. We even were directed to a side entrance by a police officer because court was in session.

Next we had only a few minutes in the Library of Congress (note to self: next time allow a few hours for this one!!), before walking underground to the Capital Building. They have an awesome intro video that leaves you with the sense that we are still involved in the great experiment of people governing themselves. After sharing a tour with a pretty rambunctious high school group from Indiana, we sat through a session at the House of Representatives. A rousing speech about identifying terrorists prompted enthusiastic clapping from both the house & the audience, when suddenly out of no where the Henry B. Eyering look-a-like Speaker of the House brought down one of the biggest gavel's I've ever seen--it must have been 3 feet long! He slammed it down so hard that our seats shook, and in shocked silence, we learned that clapping is NOT allowed in the House of Reps. I spent the rest of the time there listening to proposals that Cinco de Mayo be made a National Holiday, and trying to stop myself from laughing at the creative sleeping positions my kids were finding in their stiff seats. Later I reminded them that they COULD be at home doing their spelling instead (a much hated activity), they all assured me--they would rather have done spelling!! :) I actually found the whole process fascinating, and am keeping the Senate tickets we got for my next trip. They're good for 2 years, and I've got 6 of them.

After lunch, we went through an exhibit that went through the major American history events, by decade, over the past 100 years. Due to their age, and living in the age of knowledge being presented to them instead of them having to seek it out, they rarely if ever would actually stop to read anything. I was happy to see though that when I started walking them through the pictures, their attention was riveted on the pictures. Their questions and peaked interest made it again a rewarding moment. We ended that first day with a quick trip to the Postal Museum, and exploring Union Station. Their favorite part? Taking the 3 minute ride back to the hostel on the Metro. Figures :)

More to come later for Tuesday....!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gearin' up for DC!

So, it is 12:45, and as usual, I have not quite got it together yet with my packing. I have to be at the airport in 4 hours, have spent most of today trying to pack one tiny carry-on suitcase full of 5 days worth of clothes (for rainy, cold weather I might add), kids medications, first aid kits, AND my bedding. Still crossing my fingers it will all fit (it will, no worries...but if I'm going to bring back any suveneirs, I better give away a few things to the homeless first to clear some room! :)

Random pictures from Easter that I finally transfered from my camera to computer tonight:

All year these kids have been doing fund raisers to go to DC. During this past month, they were split into 4 groups of 6 kids each, and told to plan their trip to DC. Interestingly enough, all 4 groups planned similar iteneraries. And...I have to admit I pushed a little for the places I haven't been yet with the group I am cheproning! It has been a lot of hard work, both on their part & our part, putting this trip together. I've never been to DC where I had to do the research & planning...I don't think I was ever even given a map when I went there my sr. year. This is totally a different experience for these kids, as they have familiarized themselves with the map, picked the places they will go, and planned their own iteneraries.

One of the challenges is that we are staying in a hostel that will provide us a small mattress to sleep on, but no bedding. Everyone is only allowed to bring 1 carry on suitcase, due to the new $15 per bag policy airlines have now for actually checking in luggage. $15 is no big deal...unless you're flying 27 people across the country and paying the bill! So, everyone has figured out how to put a sleeping bag (or in my case, a very flat flannel blanket) into a small suitcase. The kids were also taught how to use a sewing machine, and sewed their own pillows for the trip! I think the boys got more into it than the girls (y'know, moving parts and all. It's their introduction to what I'm sure will later become a love of power tools and heavy machinary :). One girl was sick the day we made them, so I quickly sewed one up, putting her initial on it to distinguish it from the sea of other white pillows she will find on the plane. Let me tell you--alllll the kids were impressed and think I'm the best sewer ever!!! (K...how do you spell sew-er, without making it look like a public waste disposal?!). All I could think was "haha, if only my mom could hear this, she would laugh!" My mom has amazing talent with a sewing machine, and tried to pass the skill on to me. The only thing I successfully made as a kid was...well,a pillow case! Whoda thunk that would come in handy?

Anyway, I ended up making 4 pillows for kids that left early. The pink one is actually mine, the others are for Meaghan, Bradley, & Nichol:
The shoes! I broke down and finally bought new tennis shoes. I only have 2 pair (I say only two bcause neithe of them really do the job well. One is a pair I let an obsessed-with-jogging boyfrend talk me into 8 years ago (look massively huge, giving me look like Mrs. BigFoot, and somehow the tongue makes the top of my foot go numb by halfway through the day of wearing them.), and the other pair is a 10 year old pair from my Jr. year of high school walking class. very comfy, but too short, definitely dorky looking, and not actually good for things like sports. So, I broke down, grabbed a gift card, and went to to an outlet mall. After trying on dozens of shoes in a few stores, I found these babies after a desperate cry for help in prayer! They're even pink!!! It's totally me :) I wore them all day Friday at school (and when I say all day, I'm referring to a 12 hour work day, then 4 hours of shopping afterwards), and the feet felt pretty good, all things considered. My feet felt like mission feet after actually--hard day of steady walking/standing put on them, but a good tired feeling :)

SO, I've got my official DC by foot shoes, bag is ALMOST packed, pillows are sewn...I'm almost ready to go! We'll be updating our class webpage with pictures while there: hopefully that works. If not...I guess the world will just have to wait for pics when we come back!

Other fun stuff this week: Sometimes, it's just fun to be "single" :) I had a good week this week being able to talk to a lot of friends, old and new. Went "hot-tubbing" the begining of the week (I was fully clothed. I think it has officially become a tradition after Knox-ballfield-water-events to go jump in a pool with my normal clothes on! We didthis last year too. Deja vu...). But it was a great opportunity to talk to friends. Tuesday was Visiting Teaching, and Wed I had a really nice dinner-date with a friend who has a head full of stories to keep me entertained :) (Funny part of the evening: not 30 seconds afer my date slipped off to the bathroom in our very quiet and about to close restaraunt, a man came up to me and announced I had a really nice smile, and he liked it! Seriously, who does that? He was gone before I could even mutter a proper thank you, I guess before my actual date came back? Maybe he just gives a compliment a day away. Whatever his reasoning, it was a fun surprise to the evening!) An old friend I went to school with since age 4, Marcus Moore, also hit me up on facebook, and I had a nice time catching up with where life has taken him. Always a favorite personality with everyone, he's now a TV reporter out in Kansas City, even made it on CNN a few weeks ago when he survived diving into a ditch for cover when a tornado suddenly turned on them in filming! Sarah Su from high-school also got in touch, making plans to "bump-in" to me in DC this upcoming week...I guess it's been 10 years since we did our own little trip there! This week just helped me remember what a true treasure it is to have friends. How lucky we are to have the technology to keep in touch!

All in all,it's just been a busy week, but one that's been enjoyed. It's been hard o concentrate on anything besides this DC trip coming together. I'm SOOOOOoooo excited for it :)

See you all next week! :)